A Bird / A Path
Zach VandeZande

The bird looked just like her ex-husband, so she hated it. It was a productive hate. She would arrive home from work and find the bird still there in the living room, which contained the TV but also the bird's brass cage and its newspaper shittings and its beaked, judging face. So: she avoided the living room, spent her evenings instead tending to a garden, organizing a basement, or downing a bottle of wine in the woods behind her house. She loved a good project.
She had bought the little cage because she liked the tarnished look of it, thought it would make for good knick-knackery. She was on her own and buying things in order to be alive in a new kind of way. She doesn't know when the bird arrived, just that suddenly there was chirping and a frail little monster eyeing her in her own home.
She thought to drive a sewing needle into its breast. She thought to put bird and cage in a gutter. She thought to sell it, to give it away to the young girl down the street, to shake the cage until it stopped shaking back, to pickle it and prepare it the way the French used to do, ortolan, a meal that supposedly God himself despised, not that God had bothered much with her. The bird sat there on a perch regarding her with one eye, and she didn't do any of these things. She fed it more seed and bought it a little mirror, hoping it would stop looking at her. It didn't.
She did not want to be a bird person and feared she was. This is one trouble in being alive. She thought herself intentional, a spreadsheeter, a woman with a five-year plan. The bird would chirp, and she would wince, a person trapped inside a context that narrowed and would keep narrowing until it reached an end.

Zach VandeZande has stories in or coming from Ninth Letter, Georgia Review, Booth and many others. He teaches at Central Washington U.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Ruth Hartnup.

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